Fans view equipment at Army-Navy game
December 19, 2011
By Kris Osborn
WASHINGTON (Army News Service, Dec. 19, 2011) -- Army equipment on display at FedEx field for the Army-Navy football game drew large crowds and enthusiastic onlookers, including scores of service members, friends and family members as well as veterans and potential recruits.
The Army's display at the stadium included everything from tactical cave-and-building-clearing robots designed to detect improvised explosive devices to Stryker armored infantry carriers, mine-resistant, ambush-protected vehicles, known as MRAPs, and smaller weapons for the dismounted infantry Soldier such as rifles and machine guns.
"The weapons are a huge draw," said Command Sgt. Maj. Bernard McPherson, with Program Executive Office Soldier, or PEO Soldier.
Individual and crew-served weapons were on display for fans, including models of the M110 Semi-Automatic Sniper System, XM2010 Sniper Rifle, M249 Squad Automatic Weapon, M240L, M107 Barrett .50-cal, and the XM806 -- a lightweight .50-cal machine gun now in development.
"We've had a lot of families come by. The kids love it," said Maj. Matt Johnson, assistant product manager for Individual Weapons, PEO Soldier. "They enjoy getting behind the guns, looking through the scopes."
"There's been a lot of correlation to Modern Warfare, the video game," Johnson said. "All the kids know the guns through the video game. They like to be able to see them and touch them. The families love it. It's a great opportunity for them to see what we do on a daily basis. We get questions and we explain things to them."
Army football fan and Vietnam War veteran Edward Reed said Soldier weapons have changed much since his days as a paratrooper with the 173rd Airborne Squadron in the late 1960s.
"Weapons are different now. The technology like the M16 is still used but we've made modifications since then and made it a little shorter into the M4," Johnson added.
McPherson, who has spent a lot of time with Soldiers and combatant commanders in combat zones to assess and learn about Army gear, said the new, lightweight XM806 .50-cal machine gun will bring great benefits to Soldiers.
"This system will bring fixed head space and timing and it is about 65 pounds lighter than existing M2s (.50-cal). It has an optic tube and a quick-change barrel. This fires about 100 to 150 rounds less than a traditional M2, but it is much more accurate. In certain trails, the XM806 has gotten some very positive reviews," he added.
McPherson also said family members of current service members were particularly pleased with Soldier protective gear such as body armor.
"I've met parents whose sons and daughters are in theater and parents of West Point cadets who will soon be wearing body armor in combat. They are very interested in the protective nature of it," he said.
Tactical, bomb-defeating robots such as the TALON Explosive Ordnance Disposal robot and the smaller, 30-pound Small Unmanned Ground Vehicle were also a huge draw at FedEx Field.
The robots, which drove up and down the stadium area demonstrating their maneuverability to football enthusiasts, fans and their families, are equipped with sensors and electro-optical cameras to beam back images from potentially hazardous forward locations.
"People are amazed to see this technology and we are getting a lot of great questions," said Tim Tanzes, lead technician for the Robotic Systems Joint Project Office. "Most of these robots have the same mission, which is to identify, interrogate and defeat IEDs."
Gulf War veteran and former Army Ranger, Steve Robinson, said he was pleased that the Army has developed small, tactical robots.
"I'm amazed. Robots are allowing us to do things that we used to have humans do, and they are saving lives. Being able to send a robot in to evaluate something before a human does really makes a lot of sense. I remember during the Gulf War we had to use goats to clear a mine field. That is what we had," he explained.
Several Vietnam veterans were quite impressed with the Stryker vehicle on display, as the vehicle did not exist during the time when they served.
"People are kind of amazed at the types of equipment we have. The Vietnam-era guys compare this to the vehicles they had during their time," said Lt. Col. Jim Schirmer, product manager, Stryker development.